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What is the proper Torah based reaction to the President’s most recent offensive tweet regarding the congresswomen that he deeply dislikes? In the following op-ed appearing in Cross-Currents (an online journal of Orthodox Jewish thought), R. Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Director of Interfaith Affairs makes it very clear. Even if you are a conservative.

 

Truth be told - I’m jealous. Certain rabbis have a knack for seeing the world around them in “Jewish technicolor.” Meaning, they can see Jewish themes all around them in the events of everyday life. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with this ability. However, I really appreciate the insights of those who have it. A good example of this is the following article by R. Benjamin Blech about a new movie called Yesterday

Yesterday: The Beatles, The Movie and the Torah

For fans of the Beatles, Yesterday – the song Paul McCartney says came to him note by note in a dream – has a well- deserved claim on the best popular song ever written. Released as a single on September 13, 1965, Yesterday went to the top of the charts globally and was broadcast on American radio more than seven million times in its first 30 years. According to the Guinness Book Of Records it is the most covered pop song of all time.

Now it is back in the news as the title of a strikingly imaginative new film that perhaps requires a flight from reality too difficult to entertain: What if everyone in the world has somehow forgotten every song composed by the Beatles and only one person actually remembers?

The film follows Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who was hit by a bus during a global blackout. He makes the awesome discovery that no one earth but him remembers the Beatles. That allows him to perform their legendary songs and receive international acclaim.

It is here that the film goes off to deal with the theme of plagiarism and the true meaning of success as self-fulfillment. But there is something that moved me in the first portion of the film that spoke directly to the criticism of its totally unrealistic premise. How could the genius of the Beatles ever be forgotten by so many? How could their songs be stilled by the cruelty of forgetfulness?

This fantastical setup has a distinctively Jewish parallel. Historic amnesia is more than a transgression; it is a tragedy. And we as Jews are perhaps most sensitive to it when we reflect that long ago God appeared at Mount Sinai to teach the world the fundamentals of ethics and morality. The world was given the Torah as “a song” in order to enrich our lives, yet so many Jews today have never heard the song. For too many, it has simply been forgotten.

In the Yesterday, only Jack Malik was able to remind the world of the Beatles. And that sums up best the divinely appointed historic role of the Jews. In giving us the Torah, God gave us a mission. He told our ancestors that we were meant to become “a kingdom of kohanim, priests" But not all Jews are kohanim – priests? The answer is that what the priests were to the rest of the Jewish people, the Jewish people in entirety are meant to be to the world. Our mission to make the world remember what it should never have forgotten – the wisdom and values needed to live a live suffused with meaning, holiness and Godliness.

The premise of the movie Yesterday isn’t really far-fetched at all. If the genius of Torah that is the song of God can be forgotten by so many, surely so too can the works of the Beatles.

Our mission is to make sure that we always remember the spiritual meaning of these powerful truths:

Oh I believe in yesterday

"Renew our days as of yesterday" (Lamentations 5:21).

There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung…
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

And then perhaps, just perhaps, yesterday will turn into the glorious tomorrow when we will be able to sing with great joy, “Here comes the sun.”

 

Did you know that there were over 2000 Jews in colonial America and many took part in the Revolutionary War in consequential ways? In honor of the 4th of July, here’s a sampling of a few of these war heroes created by Marnie Winston-Macauley:

SOUTHERN JEWRY

Francis Salvador: Legendary Southern Patriot

In 1774, Francis Salvador, a recent arrival from England, is the holder of several Revolutionary records. He was elected to the First Provincial Congress in Charleston in 1774, making him the first professed American Jew to hold such a high elective office. The following year, when a South Carolina republic was established, he signed and stamped the new currency. A volunteer militiaman, participating in an expedition against Indians and Tories, he was also the first Jew to die for his country. He was killed early in the war (August 1, 1776) by Cherokee loyalists in an ambush near the Keowee River. Salvador’s commander described this scene to South Carolina President, John Rutledge. “With a savage head wound, he asked whether the enemy had been beaten. He was glad ... and then said farewell.”

The bicentennial celebration of the Jewish community of Charleston, 1950, included the creation of a commemorative stone in honor of the patriot. The inscription starts: "First Jew In South Carolina To Hold Public Office And To Die For American Independence.”

The Jews Company: 1780

Such a large number of Southern Jews wanted to join the Revolutionary cause, Captain Richard Lushington, a Jew from Charleston, South Carolina, formed what was known as “the Jews’ Company” which included 28 Jews comprising about half his men.

Mordechai Sheftall and Philip Minis

A merchant and son of a Jewish colonist who arrived in 1733, Mordecai Sheftall, chaired the committee in Savannah, Georgia, enforcing the decisions of the American patriots against British interests in 1775. The meeting is also attended by Philip Minis, also a son of one of the original Jewish colonists. In 1778, Sheftall, was appointed Deputy Commissary General for federal troops in Georgia and South Carolina. Late in the year, as Savannah's defenses are overrun by British troops, many American soldiers escaped by swimming across the Savannah River. British troops captured Sheftall who stayed behind with his teenage son, Levi. The following year, Philip Minis, a member of Georgia’s patriot committee and Levi Sheftall were guides to French and American forces in their attempt to recapture Savannah from the British.

In 1782, the Jewish community in Philadelphia, with an increased population of Jews from other cities, under Sheftall’s leadership, built its first permanent synagogue and Haym Salomon, a financier of the revolution, was a major financial contributor.

THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WAR CHEST: HAYM SALOMON

There is scarcely a USian who hasn’t heard of the sacrifices of Haym Salomon. It could be said that this Polish-born Jew who came to New York in 1772, was largely responsible for us beating the Brits.

Salomon acted as a secret agent in British-occupied New York City. After fleeing to Philadelphia in 1778 to escape arrest, his financial skills helped rescue the Continental government. He acted as supplier to American troops and as paymaster general to French forces assisting the patriots. Along with Robert Morris he raised funds for the colonial coffers. Salomon also loaned gelt at nominal rates to members of the Continental Congress in need, among them James Madison. An ardent Jew, in 1782, he made the largest contribution toward the building of the Mikveh Israel Congregation. In 1784, he stated in print: "I am a Jew; I do not despair that we shall obtain every privilege we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow citizens." At the time of his death, January 6, 1785, he was technically bankrupt. His heirs claimed that the U.S. government still owed him in excess of $350,000 – and I doubt that’s with interest.

In Chicago there is a statue linking Washington, Salomon and Robert Morris, with the words: "...The government of the United States which gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution no assistance."

“FRANKLY” SPEAKING …

Colonel Isaac Franks: Known as George Washington’s right-hand man, the two became dear friends when, on November 1 in 1793, he provided his home in Germantown, Pennsylvania to the future first President when, on his way to the Third Continental Congress in Philly, the yellow fever epidemic hit. Washington and Franks remained good friends and he became the first Jew to have his portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart.

A Family Affair: Isaac Frank’s sister Rachael married … Haym Solomon!

David Salisbury Franks, a distant relation to Isaac, had a checkered but colorful career! In 1780, when Benedict Arnold turned his coat by tipping off the British of the American surrender of the fort at West Point, his aide de camp was none other than David Franks. This was not mazel. He, along with Arnold’s other aides were arrested. He was acquitted, but outraged, requested an additional court inquiry to completely clear his name. Franks was promoted and given 400 acres of land. (Is this Jewish or what?) It gets better. He became a diplomatic courier carrying documents to Benjamin Franklin in Paris and John Jay in Madrid. But more … in 1784 he was appointed vice consul in Marseilles, France, becoming the first Jew to serve in a U.S. diplomatic post.

WE WON, LET’S EAT

In a great parade in Philadelphia in 1788 to honor Pennsylvania's ratification of the U. S. Constitution, the chazan (cantor) of the synagogue marched arm and arm with two clergymen. At the public feast that accompanied the celebration there was a table with kosher food that, according to one participant consisted of "soused salmon bread and crackers, almonds, raisins, and more."

A PRESIDENT IS SWORN IN!

When George Washington was elected the first president of the newly formed republic of the United States his 1789 inauguration was held at Federal Hall on Wall Street in Manhattan. Noted Jewish leader Gershom Mendes Seixaschazan of New York's Jewish congregation, was one of 14 religious leaders who attend the ceremonies.

And so, the United States of America owes a great debt to We Jews. On this July 4th, may we celebrate the debt that’s been paid … and those still to pay to insure the independence of our Jewish nation, Israel.